Social Security Benefits While Working

The Social Security Administration has programs in place to help individuals with disability to get back into the workforce. These include work incentives as well as its “Ticket to Work” programs. Additionally, if receiving Social Security disability benefits or Supplemental Security Income (SSI), certain rules allow people to continue to receive their monthly payments while working.

Social Security’s work incentives include:

  • While working, individuals may receive continued cash benefits for a certain amount of time
  • While working, Medicare or Medicaid may also continue (certain rules may apply)
  • When starting a new line of work, individuals may receive help with education, training, and rehabilitation

Social Security’s “Ticket to Work” programs include:

  • Vocational rehabilitation
  • Training
  • Job referrals
  • Additional employment support

Overview of Social Security’s work incentive programs:

  • Trial work period – this allows individuals to work for at least nine months to evaluate their ability to work while continuing to receive Social Security benefits; however, to avoid too much income and having to make a repayment, please consult the Social Security Administration in advance for specifics
  • Extended period of eligibility – gives individuals an additional 36 months (three years) in which to work and continue to receive Social Security benefits, provided the earnings are not “substantial”
  • Expedited reinstatement – when an individual’s benefits have stopped because he or she has been earning “substantial” income, this person has up to five years to restart the benefits if unable to continue working
  • Continuation of Medicare – when Social Security benefits have been stopped because a person is earning “substantial” income, if still disabled, the individual will continue to receive his or her free Medicare Part A coverage for at least 93 months (almost eight years)
  • The deduction of certain work expenses related to one’s disability – for individuals with a disability who work, they may be able to deduct certain expenses from their monthly earnings, such as seeing a counselor, needing a taxi, or purchasing assistive equipment

Please note that individuals who receive Social Security need to contact the Social Security office if anything changes with their employment status. These include: starting or stopping work; experiencing a change with duties, hours, or pay; and paying additional expenses for work because of a disability.

Social Security Income’s PASS Program

An important Social Security Income (SSI) work incentive is called the “plan to achieve self-support” or “PASS” program. According to the Social Security Administration, the purpose of this plan is to help individuals get the items, services, or skills needed to reach their work goals, which ultimately should reduce their dependence on SSI. The PASS program allows individuals to set aside money for a number of things to assist with one’s work goals, and these earnings will not count toward one’s income calculations. Examples include transportation, tuition, child care, employment services, and more.

To set up a plan, it must be put in writing and Social Security must approve it. The information provided in this plan must include things such as one’s work goal, steps needed, items and services needed, and cost estimates. A local Social Security office can help with writing the plan if needed. They can also refer applicants to a vocational rehabilitation counselor to assist.

For individuals whose goal is to be self-employed, they will be required to include a detailed business plan with their application. This should include details such as the type of business; where it will be set up; hours of operation; and items needed to start the business. Social Security recommends that individuals consult with an expert – such as a representative from the Small Business Administration, a vocational counselor, or local banker, to help with writing a business plan.

For more information on these and other programs, please visit the Social Security’s website at Individuals wishing to speak with someone may call the Social Security office at (800) 772-1213. Hearing-impaired individuals may call their TTY number at (800) 325-0778.

The information provided in this section is from the publication, Working While Disabled: How We Can Help, published by the Social Security Administration in 2018.

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